Three players nudged into a one-shot advantage during an action-packed third round at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
It was a roller coaster Moving Day as seven players topped the leaderboard at some point at Doha Golf Club.
Overnight leader Haydn Barron briefly increased his total to 10 under after an opening birdie, but he was caught by the chasing pack when the Australian struggled on the front nine.
Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino, Dane Rasmus Højgaard, Scot Ewen Ferguson and Englishman Paul Waring all moved into a five-way lead at seven under, after a short stint at the top from Spaniard Alejandro Del Rey and South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis early on.
But 2022 champion Ferguson seized the initiative to climb to nine under, only for Hoshino to quickly move to double figures.
A hat-trick of birdies around the turn saw Ugo Coussaud hold a two-shot advantage at 11 under after 13 holes.
However, a bogey at the 15th halved his advantage, and Højgaard and Hoshino ensured they were alongside the Frenchman at the top with birdies at the penultimate hole for a three-way lead with 18 holes to play.
Højgaard, who has been not dropped a shot in his last 33 holes, said: “Most part of the round was very solid. I felt I was pretty good out of the tee box, I gave myself some good chances and rolled a few in.
“The last few holes there were a couple of poor swings, but managed to keep it bogey-free so that’s a positive.”
It looked as though Australian Barron was continuing his momentum from the opening two rounds when he climbed to 10 under after the 1st hole.
Hoshino was in close quarters with an opening birdie and he was in leading group when Barron bogeyed the 3rd and 4th, despite the Japanese dropping a shot at the latter hole as well.
That left the door open for Højgaard, Ferguson and Waring to join them at the top of the leaderboard at seven under, but Hoshino moved ahead with a gain at the 7th.
However, Ferguson, who had to wait until the 7th to pick up his first shot of the day, went a terrific run of six birdies in eight holes to take the outright lead at nine under after 14 holes.
Coussaud joined him at that mark on the back of a hat-trick of birdies from the 8th, only for Hoshino to move into double figures after gains at the 9th and 10th.
He immediately gave the shot back at the 11th, which saw Coussaud take full advantage following a brace of birdies at the 12th and 13th.
The Frenchman now held a two-shot lead, but he found trouble from the tee at the 15th to halve his deficit and Højgaard wasted no time to reach double figures for the first time at the 17th hole.
The Dane drained a 13-foot putt to sit alongside Coussaud at the top, but Hoshino joined the pair when he sank a birdie at the penultimate hole for the third day in a row.
Højgaard and Coussaud struggled off the final tee, but both managed to salvage par, while Hoshino slid a birdie putt by which would have given him a one-shot lead heading into the final round.
“I had a very good start, two birdies, but the putter was quite hot today and felt I hit very good tee-shots as well,” Coussaud said. “I was never in too much trouble before 15, but I had a proper round and enjoyed it today.”
Ferguson carded the joint-lowest round of the tournament with a flawless six-under-par 66 to sit one adrift alongside Northern Irishman Tom McKibbin and Denmark’s Niklas Nørgaard.
English pair Waring and Sam Bairstow are at eight under, while Barron battled back to join first-round leader Ashun Wu and Jorge Campillo one stroke further back.
– Report from DP World Tour website
Photo: Octavio Passos/Getty Images